Review: The Great War (Holborn & Roberts)


The Great War: A Photographic Narrative.

The quintessential coffee-table book: huge, thick, heavy, glossy. If you’re looking for a gift for your favorite armchair general, look no farther.

Its being a product of research at the Imperial War Museums means that there are those inevitable “iconic” illustrations, but they’re in the minority. If you opened it on the first of January and turned over a leaf every day, you’d run out of year before you ran out of photos. I think my favorite is the one (Q 11538) of a German soldier giving a light to a wounded British soldier: there’s just something about their hands….

In addition to the period photos, there are contemporary color shots of relics, such as the uniform jacket worn by the Archduke on that fatal day in Sarajevo. The captions are informative in themselves, and we get occasional brief essays. There are also timelines scattered throughout, but they include information that’s different to your typical timeline. Every excursion into the book is a learning experience.

The SRP is high-end, but if you shop around, you may find it deeply marked down, as I did. It’s still the most expensive book I’ve bought for my collection, but the size of the photos means that many small details are visible, and that’s important to me, as a novelist. It was a good investment.

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